When I started this column last September, “Pretty is as pretty does,” was one of the proverbs listed in the comments when you were asked to share an adage, saying, proverb, or quote you liked. This proverb has been around since the 14th century and started in the version of “Handsome is as handsome does” and we all know the version made famous by Forrest Gump, “Stupid is as stupid does.” I can just hear him say it, with the emphasis on the words, “is” and “does.”


Another one was, “Beauty is only skin deep.” This proverb was first written in a poem by Thomas Overbury around 1613 titled, A Wife. The poem stated, “All the carnal beauty of my wife is but skin-deep.” In this poem he describes what he feels a man should expect from his wife. Unfortunately, especially for him, his poem was not well received and is even attributed largely in his murder shortly thereafter. Wow, those were the times!


These two go hand in hand. They both refer to what you see is not always what is real or true. The true characteristics of a person are revealed by their actions from the heart. In other words, we aren't to judge a book by its cover but look to the inside for its real value. These are also the topic for this month, along with one of my favorites, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

This phrase has been around in some way or another since the 3rd century B.C. but it was first used as the way we know it and written in 1878 by author Margaret Wolfe Hungerford in her book, Molly Bawn. It basically means we’re all different and we all see things differently. If we could only let each other have our own perceptions and be respectful of them, then we might see some things differently ourselves. I find it interesting how these idioms, adages, proverbs, and quotes go on through the ages. They might be changed a little depending on the culture, but the meaning remains basically the same.


I, myself, learned these firsthand together in a very odd way. I had a beautiful flower garden when I was little girl and I would go and sit and be like Ferdinand, the Bull, and just smell the flowers. Unfortunately, not everyone thought my garden was pretty. You see, my flower garden was actually a bunch of flowering weeds that had grown up around a pile of bricks.


We lived way out in the country so no one cared about the bricks but some did care about my flowering weeds! Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it was all very simple to me. Those flowers were beautiful, they were mine and they weren’t to be picked! And like the proverb, “Pretty is as pretty does,” my “prettiness” was ready to come out when someone got close to picking my flowers.


Our neighbors had a cousin who wanted nothing more than to pick my flowers every time she came to visit. She didn’t want to pick them to put in a vase. She wanted to pick them to throw on the ground and make me mad. The one time I decided to stop her I came up behind her and raised my hand to slap her on the back as hard as I could. Of course, my mom was in the doorway of our house watching the entire chain of events and stopped me just in time. “Carole Lynn! Come here now!” That’s all it took and I knew what was going to happen next. As I pleaded with my mom that my retaliation was warranted she impressed upon me, especially my behind, that “pretty is as pretty does.” And I didn’t look very pretty that day!


I’m back living in the country and have been on this dead end street for twenty years. The wind blows, the hot sun beats down, and my patio area will never be as lush as others I’ve seen and would like. My backyard won’t even produce wild flowers! But, like the wildflowers of my youth, I still see the beauty in it. It’s what God has given me and I’m eternally grateful. It may not seem beautiful to others, and I might feel the same about something of theirs, but “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and should not be criticized, looked down upon, or picked. So I’ll oooh and ahhh at those other yards and then go home and love what I have.


If we look at these proverbs on a personal note with all the products, all the advice, and all the examples of what makes a woman beautiful today, we can get taken down a very wrong path, an outward path instead of inward. These things are fine and dandy as long as we remember it doesn’t matter what we put on, what we try, or who we listen to. True beauty comes from within.


I love the verse 1 Peter 3:3-4,


“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment,

such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.

Instead, it should be that of your inner self,

the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit,

which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

The Wildflowers of My Youth
by Carole Gilbert

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